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CBI books 3 Adani firms, JK Paper & 23 big corporates in coal scam

One of the accused companies is also linked to the Yes Bank probe related to Gautam Thapar's Avantha Group, which allegedly paid kickbacks to Kapoors for loans worth over Rs 1,500 crore

CBI books 3 Adani firms, JK Paper & 23 big corporates in coal scam

New Delhi: After the probe into the Yes Bank crisis led to the summoning of some of the major corporate bigwigs in India, the CBI has now booked three Adani Group companies, JK Paper, Emami Group companies, two of Vedanta Group's companies and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd and a host of other paper and power companies along with erstwhile officials of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) in a case where the Coal India subsidiary had faced a loss of more than Rs 97 crore, owing to an alleged conspiracy between 25 such private companies who were on coal supply agreements with the MCL and then officials of the public company.

Interestingly, one of the companies accused in this case is BILT Graphics Products Ltd, which is already under the scanner of probe agencies in the Yes Bank crisis. In fact, according to the CBI, Balllarpur Industries Limited (BILT) is a group company of Gautam Thapar's Avantha Group, which had allegedly paid kickbacks to Rana Kapoor and family to avail credit facilities of more than Rs 1,500 crore. Part of the kickbacks was paid by way of practically giving away a lush property at Amrita Shergill Marg to a company run by Kapoor's wife Bindu at throwaway prices.

CBI officials told this newspaper on Friday that agency sleuths had conducted raids at 10 locations across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in connection with the case, at the premises related to the accused companies and persons.

According to the central agency, these 25 private companies had Fuel Supply Agreements (FSAs) with MCL for the supply of coal for their respective plants but the CBI has alleged that these companies had conspired with five erstwhile senior officials of the MCL to evade payment of dues, causing a loss of more than Rs 97 crore to MCL.

The probe agency has booked Kaberi Mukherjee, then Chief Manager (Finance); Anil Kumar Bhowmik, then Senior Manager (Finance), Marketing and Sales; Debajyoti Chakraborty, then Senior Manager (Finance), Sales; and Srivalli Veeraghanta, then Deputy Manager(Finance), Sales. While the agency has not named Rajesh Mishra, then Chief Manager (Marketing and Sales) as an accused, it has sought approval under Section 17(A) of the PC Act to include him in the purview of the probe. These officials were posted in MCL's Kolkata office and while some have retired, some continue at senior positions in Coal India and its subsidiaries.

The agency has alleged in its FIR that these coal consumers had conspired with the accused officials and other unknown personnel of the MCL to continue the supply of coal in violation o provisions and terms set out under their respective FSAs. The agency has accused the officials of falsifying MCL records and data, which in effect helped these private companies to evade penalty dues worth over Rs 97 crore.

A Vigilance inspection from within MCL had revealed that the accused public officials had through inaction on pending payments from these coal consumers, led to the loss of around Rs 85.99 crore in interest recoveries. Moreover, the CBI has alleged that these officials were complicit in the illegal activities between 2013 and 2017 and had also resorted to "unauthorised/illegal inter-party transfers of fund", leading to a further loss of around Rs 11 crore.

In addition, the MCL's vigilance report on the case claimed that there were a bunch of transactions where coal was supplied to some of these companies through FSAs, instead of e-auction, which fetches a premium of 30 per cent or more of the base coal price. According to MCL, these companies were not eligible for e-auction, so FSA was used for supply resulting in a further loss of approximately Rs 44.31 crore.

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